When reporters attack! Watch as St. Petersburg Times reporter Christina Silva nails St.Pete City Council Chair Jeff Danner on his lies

When reporters attack! Watch as St. Petersburg Times reporter Christina Silva nails St.Pete City Council Chair Jeff Danner on his lies about allowing peace groups to have input in the Baywalk sidewalk issue.

Thank God there are still a few reporters in this world that will stand up to the government when our representatives are so obviously fixing the facts and situations just prior to stealing another Constitutional right from the people.

Several groups were allowed to speak at the 10 a.m. meeting in St.Pete City Hall, both referred to as the (COW) Committee of the Whole and also as a workshop session. These groups did not include any of the demonstrators like St.Pete for Peace who have been using the sidewalk to exercise their 1st Amendment rights for many years. The City Council did allow members of the Chamber of Commerce to speak, most likely because the Chamber has been in support of removing free speech from the sidewalk in question, in a misguided belief that it is the 1st Amendment that has caused the financial collapse of the shopping center, and not the downturn in the economy or bad management.

It seems rather clear that Chairman Danner did not truly wish to have any advocates of free speech involved in the discussion of the sidewalk vacation or any alternatives. It is interesting that the only Councilmember who spoke about the 1st Amendment was Wengay Newton, who not only read his oath to the Constitution aloud at the previous meeting, but also voted consistently against giving the sidewalk away from the people to the corporations that own Baywalk. Leslie Curran switched her vote back and forth, and spoke favorably about the protesters at the previous meeting. But at the last meeting she shook her head in strong approval when Chairman Danner said, “Do not mistake me for being on the side of the protesters," “I think what they were doing was deplorable." Just before they voted against vacating the sidewalk.

So it would seem that these two flip-floppers, Danner and Curran, were: first for it, then at one point were against the vacation, perhaps because they are up for re-election and opposed by candidates who support the US Constitution. And perhaps they thought the vacation of the sidewalk was a “done deal” like Council Member Kennedy had said, in which case they thought they could cast a populist vote safely and without repercussion. (This tactic was undertaken by Tarpon Springs City Commissioner Peter Nehr, during the all-night WalMart hearing — he voted safely against WalMart, because he knew the votes were there for it to pass anyway. When he ran for State House, WalMart gave him the maximum contribution. They obviously knew where his true heart lay.)

But it would appear that Danner and Curran didn’t know there’d be one vote too many, cast by wildcard Herb Polson, and a tie caused the motion to fail (someone was not following the playbook). The following week it was Herb Polson asking for a re-vote on the issue, to now undo what he had done. And then when the City got its Do-Over, something had changed. Council Member Karl Nurse decided to show some photos from previous protests (keep in mind that the pictures he showed ironically were from one of the other times the City broke the law in regards to this sidewalk, when they used barricades to create illegal “free speech zones," which the City eventually had to remove). Now even Danner and Curran were terrified by the thought that they might be tainted by the same tie-dyed belief in the Constitution that Newton was into. So they went above and beyond to convince the Chamber of Commerce and other moneybags in the room that they were only opposed to the corporate welfare gifting of the sidewalk, because other smaller less deserving companies might want a similar handout once the precedent was set. What a show. And the smiles upon Danner’s and Curran's faces told the tale. They had just voted against the vacation, and their vote failed. But it sure seemed like they got what they wanted, by their expressions, when the thing passed. Like I said, what a show.

I have re-read the City Charter for St.Pete, begged my friends for research help and searched the City website and Google, to get to the bottom of their Sunshine Law violations. The City of St. Petersburg does not even come close to government in the Sunshine. They are Partly Cloudy at best. The trouble is proving that they have violated the actual letter of the law and not just the spirit of it.

St. Pete allows backdoor meetings between the Mayor and developers and singled out Council Members. This is not allowed in my City (There is a loophole in the law that might allow them to get away with this one, until we challenge it). St. Pete also has some meetings where they do not allow public comment. This again is not the case in my City. We can comment on any agenda item, including the ever elusive consent agenda. We also have public comment on all of our City meetings including our workshop sessions. Oh yes, and our meetings start with public comment, for items that will not be on the agenda. St. Pete only allows public comment at the end of the meeting, at which no one knows what time that will be. This is an obvious tactic used to discourage those who would speak. And to further the abuse of the 1st Amendment, I’m told that they ban speakers from speaking more than once a month. Yes, it would appear that St. Petersburg has a proud tradition of discouraging free speech, on sidewalks and in City Hall.

So just what can be done about this? On my end, I will continue to do research. I remember a Florida House Bill, that was proposed to mandate public comment at the beginning of City and County Meetings throughout the State, as well as mandated comment on all agenda items. Help me find this Bill. Did it pass? Who sponsored it? Also we need to hound the ACLU to file suit against St. Pete to protect the Constitution. File pro se lawsuits of your own. Write letters to the Attorney General of the State of Florida and ask for his legal opinion in writing. Do your own research, and find out exactly what the rules are and make them public. Actively campaign against the incumbents on the St. Pete Council, and find candidates you can help to replace them. Hurry, time is running out!

There are news stations around the state and the country who reported the fight in City Hall, and you have no doubt seen it more than once yourselves. Just think, if these same stations had shown the video above with Silva and Danner. That’s where the real fight was. And better still; just think if all of these same news reporters would have acted like Christina Silva did that day. The City Council would have let the people be heard. And you can bet, the Council would have been afraid to violate our Constitution, and the vote would have gone the other way.


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